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This scandal should be investigated – and it’s not Russiagate

Special Counsel should look into the conduct of the US intelligence community and how it tried to swing the election to Hillary Clinton and away from Donald Trump

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In my last article on Russiagate I made known my continued doubts that the bureaucracy in Washington would ever agree to the wide-ranging investigation of the events of the US Presidential election which is now pressing.

To be clear, this investigation must go beyond Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s current narrow investigation into the allegations of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign.

Sixteen months after those claims first began to be investigated no evidence of such collusion has been found outside of the Trump Dossier, which even its compiler Christopher Steele now admits is not completely accurate (he now says it is “70-90% accurate”).

Michael Flynn’s conversations with Russian ambassador Kislyak, Jeff Sessions’s two meetings with Russian ambassador Kislyak, Jared Kushner’s meeting with Russian ambassador Kislyak (which as it turns out was misreported), Donald Trump Junior’s meeting with the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, Carter Page’s various activities, and the indictments of Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos, do not provide evidence of illegal collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.  On the contrary they evidence that no such collusion took place.

I am in full agreement with the independent blogger Caitlin Johnstone  that if any illegal collusion had taken place evidence for it would have been found long ago.

What the evidence points to is – as Jared Kushner has admitted – a chaotic and disorganised Trump campaign, incapable of carrying out any sort of secret or illegal collusion not just with the Russians but with anyone, with unpaid and junior staffers like George Papadopoulos and Carter Page amateurishly attempting – in one case enthusiastically, in the second case calculatedly – to do foreign policy with Russia all by themselves, without receiving guidance or encouragement from the Trump campaign.

Nothing those people who were genuinely close to Trump  – eg. Manafort, Flynn, Kushner, Sessions and Donald Trump Junior – did during the campaign looks to me wrong or improper.

By contrast, whilst there is no evidence of illegal collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, and no prospect of anyone finding such evidence, there is now abundant evidence that the US intelligence community, the Justice Department and the FBI were pulling out the stops during the election to help Hillary Clinton.  Consider:

(1) The FBI took it on itself to announce that there would be no prosecution of Hillary Clinton’s misuse of her private email server whilst Secretary of State, despite this being illegal and despite her wilful destruction of thousands of her emails which passed through her server.

This happened following a conversation between Bill Clinton – Hillary Clinton’s husband – and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, which former FBI Director James Comey admits was improper.

The decision not to proceed to a prosecution was moreover announced by former FBI Director James Comey in a manner which Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and the Justice Department admit was also improper.

(2) The FBI did not undertake its own independent forensic investigation of the DNC’s and John Podesta’s computers following Hillary Clinton’s, the DNC’s and John Podesta’s complaints of Russian hacking of those computers.

Instead it accepted Hillary Clinton’s, the DNC’s and John Podesta’s assertion that the Russians had hacked the DNC’s and John Podesta’s computers, even though this assertion is based on nothing more than the opinion of a private expert – Crowdstrike – which was paid to provide its opinion by the DNC.

Having accepted Hillary Clinton’s, the DNC’s and John Podesta’s assertion that the Russians had hacked the DNC’s and John Podesta’s computers, the FBI thereafter did none of the things which a proper investigation of the hacking claims would have required..

The FBI did not for example insist on on being given access to the computers or seek a warrant to obtain possession of the computers; nor did the FBI draw any inference from the refusal of the DNC and John Podesta to allow it access to their computers; nor did the FBI interview any of the relevant witnesses, such as the staff of the DNC, Julian Assange, Craig Murray and the staff of Wikileaks.

(3) As Joe Lauria has pointed out, there is now compelling evidence that the original allegations of illegal collusion by the Trump campaign with the Russians originate with the Trump Dossier, which it has now been confirmed was paid for by the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign.

There is now also compelling evidence that it was the ‘information’ in this Dossier which was used to obtain FISA warrants which led to the surveillance of Paul Manafort and Carter Page and possibly of others during the election campaign.

Since the Justice Department, the FBI and the US intelligence community refuse to discuss the Trump Dossier publicly, or the extent of their reliance on it, and will not say what evidence was provided to the FISA court to obtain the FISA warrants, it is not known whether the FISA court was told when the FISA warrants were applied for that the information upon which the applications were  based apparently originated in a Dossier paid for by the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign.

(4) Though the Justice Department, the FBI and the US intelligence community have presumably known from the outset that the Trump Dossier was paid for by the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign, Trump was not told this when as President elect he was first shown the Dossier by former FBI Director Comey during the meeting between Trump and the intelligence chiefs on 6th January 2017.

Though the Justice Department, the FBI and the US intelligence community have presumably known from the outset that the Trump Dossier was paid for by the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign, they did not disclose this important fact either to the American people or to Congressional investigators, with this key fact only becoming known in the last few weeks as a result of the enquiries of the Congressional investigators.

Nor do the Justice Department, the FBI and the US intelligence community seem to have drawn any inferences from the fact that the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign wanted to keep their role in paying for the Trump Dossier secret.

I would add that if the Justice Department, the FBI and the US intelligence community did not in fact know that the Trump Dossier was paid for by the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign, then that would prove a grossly incompetent and biased investigation.

It ought to be the first order of business when considering ‘evidence’ of the sort purportedly provided by the Trump Dossier to find out who had paid for it.  It would beg a host of questions if this was not done.

(6) The use of FISA warrants to undertake surveillance of persons involved in the Trump campaign during the election to an extent which has still not been fully disclosed was anyway inherently abusive.

FISA is not supposed to be used to carry out surveillance of US citizens.  Rather it is supposed to be used to enable surveillance of the agents of foreign powers.  That is why its full title is Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”).

In this case all the safeguards seem to have been thrown to the winds.  Though it is legally possible to undertake ‘incidental surveillance’ of US citizens caught by surveillance carried out under FISA warrants (so called “warrantless surveillance”) in this case there seems to be little doubt that Manafort and Carter Page were actually specifically targeted.

Former FBI Director Comey moreover admitted to President Trump – and it has been admitted repeatedly since – that Trump himself is not the target of the Russiagate investigation, and it is denied that he was ever a surveillance target.

Given that this is so why was it necessary to place anyone under surveillance at all?  Why did the Justice Department, the FBI and the US intelligence community not simply inform Trump during the election that there were serious concerns about the activities of some members of his campaign and invite him to take the necessary action?

Why instead of taking that obvious – and obviously appropriate – step which might have led to the individuals in question being removed from the campaign – was a campaign of secret surveillance undertaken instead?

Was it because the true intention was not to protect the integrity of the election but rather to undertake secret surveillance of the Trump campaign in the hope that this would unearth something which could be used either to prevent Donald Trump being elected or to provide grounds for his impeachment if he was elected?

(7) Just a few weeks before the election the US intelligence community published a fact-free and tortuously worded statement alleging Russian meddling in the election by implication on Donald Trump’s behalf.

Why was that done instead of the step discussed in (6) given that releasing a statement of that kind would clearly have an influence on the outcome of the election and might therefore constitute a violation of the Hatch Act (former FBI Director Comey refused to sign it for precisely that reason)?

(8) After the election members of the US intelligence community leaked to the media classified details of a secretly recorded conversation between Michael Flynn – President elect Trump’s pick for National Security Adviser – and Russian ambassador Kislyak.

As has been admitted, nothing inappropriate was actually said during this conversation.  However the leak of details of this conversation was used to force Michael Flynn to resign.

As was pointed out at the time, and as has been pointed out since, and as has never in fact been denied, the leaking of the classified details of this conversation in a way that identified Michael Flynn was a serious criminal offence under the FISA act.

That fact does not however seem to have weighed on those within the US intelligence community who leaked this information or on their superiors.  To date no-one appears to have been punished or prosecuted for it.

In any properly functioning democracy all of the above ought to be a cause of very serious concern.

It is very bad if during an election members of a campaign illegally conspire with a foreign power in order to win the election.  However – to repeat again – there is no evidence that during the 2016 election that actually took place.

It is however arguably even worse when the intelligence and security agencies of a country interfere in the conduct of an election in order to swing the outcome of the election from one candidate to another.

It becomes a matter of still greater concern if the intelligence and security agencies of that country act in concert with the party of the defeated candidate that they supported to orchestrate a media campaign vilifying the candidate they opposed because despite their efforts he won the election, and conduct a bogus investigation of phoney collusion allegations in order to put pressure on him and to discredit him and in order to conceal their own activities.

In such a situation one must question whether the country where such things are happening is any longer a democracy at all.

This however is the extremely dangerous situation in which the American Republic now finds itself.

The need for someone to look into all of this and to find out what really happened during the 2016 election would appear to be obvious.

I would add that it is by no means impossible that serious criminal offences were committed over the course of the election, which because of the diversion of time and resources into investigating the phoney Trump campaign/Russian collusion allegations are not being investigated.

These could include all or any of the following:

(1) Possible obstruction of justice arising from Hillary Clinton’s destruction of 30,000 emails which passed through her private email server;

(2) Obstruction of justice arising from the DNC’s refusal to allow the FBI access to its computers;

(3) Violations of constitutional provisions in the event that the FISA warrants were improperly used and obtained;

(4) Violations of the Hatch Act, which specifically prohibits any US government official from

[using] his official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election

(5) last but by no means least, the straightforward and indisputable crime of the leaking of classified information to force the resignation of Michael Flynn.

The above list of possible crimes is not intended to be exhaustive.  Other crimes may have been committed as well.  I am not in a position to say.  An investigator commissioned to look into this affair might however find more.

Of course if there was collusion between the Democrats and the US intelligence community which led to any one of the above crimes being committed then that would be a very serious matter indeed.  The US would then have a serious constitutional crisis on its hands.  However it is important to say that at the moment there is no evidence of this.

However enough is already known about what went on during the 2016 election to give rise to very serious concerns.  Loud alarm bells ought to be ringing.  It is alarming that they are not or if they are that people seem to be deaf to them.

The problem is that far too many important people are compromised by this affair, making it completely unsurprising that calls for the appointment of another Special Counsel to look into their activities is running into fierce resistance.

Thus in Congressional testimony Attorney General Sessions appeared to push back on suggestions that another Special Counsel should be appointed, whilst a meeting between CIA Director Mike Pompeo and William Binney, the former NSA official behind the recent VIPS report which has cast doubt on the Russian hacking claims, seems to have resulted in nothing.

Nonetheless the proposal for the appointment of another Special Counsel is now out in the open, though in my opinion some of its advocates are not helping matters by asking that the new Special Counsel be instructed to look into the Uranium One case.  Whilst there may be a scandal buried deep inside that tangled case, it has no connection to the 2016 election, which is where the focus of any expanded investigation by Special Counsel should lie.

As I have attempted to show in this article, there is actually a huge amount connected to the 2016 election for a Special Counsel to look into.  If another Special Counsel is ever appointed – and the job calls for a top constitutional law expert such as a Supreme Court Justice, not a former police investigator like Mueller – he or she will have their hands full, and should not be burdened with a sideshow like Uranium One.

I will not pretend that I have any very great hopes that such a Special Counsel will be appointed.  On the contrary the odds are heavily against it.

However anyone who genuinely cares about the future of democracy in the US ought to be demanding it.

Since there are still such people in the US, I for one am not yet willing to give up hope.  Presumably there are still people in America who remember that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

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